Shine Harehills event to highlight Child Sexual Exploitation misunderstandings

An exhibition to raise awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation at Shine Harehills in  Leeds in March 2018. Picture by Simon Hulme.
An exhibition to raise awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation at Shine Harehills in Leeds in March 2018. Picture by Simon Hulme.

A day of action in Leeds will combat a "lack of understanding" about child sex abuse.

The annual National Day to End Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) takes place today.

Basis Yorkshire, which works with young people who have experienced CSE, is holding a conference led by young people.

It will include a series of workshops to raise awareness at the Shine Harehills between 4pm and 6pm, while fundraising will also take place at Leeds Station.

The organisation works with 60 young people a year who are being sexually exploited, but believes that despite good progress, there is still a "lack of understanding" about how difficult it
may be for victims to realise CSE is happening to them, and "the victim blaming that still happens based on stereotypes and gendered expectations".

Amber Wilson, the charity's business development and marketing manager, said: "As a specialist charity we know only too well CSE can have a life long impact, particularly if this goes unrecognised.

"Too often boys and girls who are being sexually exploited blame themselves or find their exploitation is blamed on their behaviour rather than on the actual perpetrator of the crime.

"This stops young people from seeking or benefiting from support and speaking up – allowing the perpetrators to continue their abuse and exploitation."

It is because of this that the charity is using the social media hashtags of #itsnotyourfault and #tellsomeone.

She added that the charity was "very proud of the passionate, committed" young people - all of whom have experienced sexual exploitation - who are leading the organisation of the conference this afternoon, and of everyone who contributed art to the exhibition.

Basis has been working with girls and young women experiencing sexual exploitation, or those at a significant risk of it, in Leeds for more than 10 years.

Since 2018 it has also offered a limited service to boys in Leeds and Bradford.

The charity works with young people in a series of personal, individually-tailored sessions around issues such as healthy relationships, consent, online safety and more until they are at low risk.

In 2017, a briefing paper revealed that a third of all West Yorkshire Police investigations at that time involved non-recent child sexual exploitation cases.